Ever wonder why those Jewish neighbors of yours don’t want to eat in your house? Learning more about Judaism and wondering about keeping kosher? Here are some of the obscure things your neighbors might be concerned about. Keep in mind that not every Jew who keeps kosher observes the laws strictly, and even within Orthodoxy there are many variations.
Naturally, ask your local Orthodox rabbi for more details. . .
- Knives. When it comes to knives and sharp foods such as onions and garlic, the halacha (Jewish law) is strict. If you cut an onion with a clean dairy knife, you have to slice off the layer of onion that touched the knife before using the rest of the onion in a meat meal.
- Bugs. They ain’t kosher. Unless they’re grasshoppers and you *know* that they are the kosher kind. Depending on where you live, some vegetables and grains need to be checked before they are eaten. Flour may need to be sifted with a fine sieve. In Israel you can find bugs in anything. . .
- Liver. Most people know about this but I recently heard a few stories. Liver cannot be soaked and salted like other parts of beef and chicken. It must be broiled on an open flame, using utensils used just for that purpose.
- Terumot and Maaserot, Orlah, and Sheviit/Shemitah—-Tithing, fruit that is from a tree until the fourth year (the King James version of the Bible calls it uncircumcised fruit :-)), and the sabbatical year. These mainly apply in Israel, but you never know when you are going to get there! Could be an issue in the US if you have fruit trees.
- Wine. To avoid intermarriage, the sages prohibited drinking wine or any grape product that was handled by a non-Jew. Also, wine was important in many idolatrous cults. Since cooking wine lowers its quality, “yayin mevushal” or wine heated to a particular temperature, doesn’t have any restrictions. Neither do other types of alcoholic beverages beyond normal kashruth restrictions.
- Taking challah. When baking with dough or batter using a large quantity of flour, you need to separate a kezayith (olive-sized part) of dough, recite a blessing, and burn it or put it in a place where it won’t get eaten until it’s inedible. According to my son the Mishnah on challah is the only one written in the feminine gender.
- Selling chametz (leavened food such as bread and noodles). Chametz not used up by Passover may be sold to a non-Jew (according to some). After Passover, it could be a problem to buy chametz from stores owned by Jews.
- Fish and meat. The halacha forbids eating fish and meat together. So fish is always served as a separate course during a meat meal, using separate plates and utensils. You are supposed to eat or drink something neutral between the fish and the meat.
- Nine and ten are not about kashrut, strictly speaking: Netilat Yadayim or ritual hand-washing. In order to eat bread one must wash by pouring water over each hand with a cup, saying a blessing for washing, another one for the bread. adn then eating. Afterward there is a another longer blessing called birkat hamazon. So observant Jews don’t eat bread as a snack.
- The kailim mikveh. Metal and glass utensils generally need to be immersed in a mikveh or ritual bath before their first use. There’s a blessing for that too. Many rabbis hold that it’s okay to eat food that was not “toiveled” on a temporary basis.